Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is facing up to a relegation battle after defeat at Norwich City

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill admitted his side were in a relegation battle after the Black Cats lost 2-1 at Carrow Road yesterday.

An early goal from defender Sebastien Bassong put Norwich ahead and when Anthony Pilkington slotted home a second after 37 minutes Hughton's side appeared on course for a comfortable win.

But after conceding a goal on the stroke of half-time to Craig Gardner, the Canaries had to fight for much of the second half to deny Sunderland a share of the spoils.

Matthew Kilgallon missed the best of Sunderland's second-half efforts while Gardner rattled a post and saw another shot cleared off the line.

While Norwich extended their unbeaten league run to eight games, Sunderland have won just two of their last 22 Premier League fixtures and O'Neill is under no illusion that his side are scrapping for survival.

'Until you get the requisite number of points on the board I don't think that you can ever think anything else,' he said.

'You need the points, it really is as simple as that. We haven't at the minute got enough points on the board and we have to rectify that.

Most Read

'Our position in the league at the minute, with a couple of teams all tight together, would suggest just that (we are in a fight).

'It is a battle for us and we have to pull through – it was a battle last year and so from that viewpoint I'm hoping the experience they have got will stand them in good stead this season.'

O'Neill bemoaned his side's performance in the first half but reckons the turnaround in the second half should give the team confidence going forward, although talismanic striker Steven Fletcher could be missing through injury having been brought off with a knock at half-time.

'To dominate the way we did in the second half is encouraging, there is no doubt about that,' he said. 'I said to the players at the end that if we perform like we did in the second half we will be fine, we are certainly not good enough to gift goals to teams and be able to turn that around, the top sides are able to do that but we are certainly not a top side.

'We conceded some very, very poor goals so it was an uphill task – but from the moment we conceded the second goal I thought that we played very strongly,' he added.

'In the second half in particular we were really excellent, we created some really decent chances and should have scored two or three.

'If we show the same spirit as we did in the second half for the rest of the season we'll be fine and if we show the tension that was in us in the first half then it'll be a tough battle.'